Our Book Club has now been running for four months and we have read and reviewed four books, with opinions varying from “Meah!” to “Fab!”
We are a warm and friendly group, welcoming all opinions on our book choices and enjoying a lively, inter-book discourse via WhatsApp. During our monthly Zoom sessions, we have some great discussions about the books and the issues they raise. We don’t always agree, but where would the fun be if we did?
Holding meetings over Zoom means that anyone in a reasonably compatible time zone can take part, which is a definite and unforeseen bonus. Of course, it would be lovely to get together in a physical space as virtual gatherings do have their drawbacks. With that in mind, we are considering holding a face-to-face session in the autumn for our Hong Kong members. We will be polling you on this and we welcome everyone’s input.
Meanwhile, I think it’s fair to say that the Book Club is proving to be a popular feature of the WiPS programme.
John Saeki and Pete Spurrier on how to earn your stripes in Hong Kong’s publishing industry. (Moderated by Suzanne Andrews)
Publishing John Saeki’s The Last Tigers of Hong Kong (ISBN: 978-988-75546-1-5) in the Year of the Tiger was serendipitous: Covid had delayed Blacksmith Books’ earlier planned release. It was equally unintentional that WiPS held its event on the eve of the International Day of the Tiger, 29 July (shamefully, we were not aware there was one!).
But nothing was left to chance in John Saeki’s research for his fascinating book. Historical references were hard to find, which probably explains why no one else has tackled the topic, and they were painstakingly and meticulously hunted down. Drawn to his subject by the sheer contrast of Hong Kong’s image as an urban jungle and the roaming of a ferocious wild beast at its fringes, Saeki spent many months in scanning newspaper archives; trying to locate New Territory’s villagers who were old enough to have seen a tiger in the wild; and reading the tiger tales of American missionary Harry Caldwell and descriptions by biologist G.A.C. Herklots.
Then endemic in Fujian Province, the South China tiger had extended its territory. There was nothing to stop it wandering, as it did yearly, into Hong Kong to prey on domestic and wild animals – and sometimes also people. Scary as this scenario might seem, the author laconically commented that over the period of the tiger’s presence in Hong Kong (possibly until as recently as the early 1960s), humans killed far more humans than the tiger ever did!
In his turn, local publisher extraordinaire Pete Spurrier told us that non-fiction about Hong Kong (and China), historical or contemporary, sells much better than fiction by Hong Kong-based authors, whose work generally competes less well with that of international writers. Importantly, too, local publishers are less interested in the rest of the region: if you write about Singapore, then find a Singaporean publisher, or go to New York or London.
A good working relationship between author and publisher is essential (as Saeki and Spurrier had). Authors need to be confident. If they are not, they may be turned away for fear they will be unable to help the book’s public promotion. This is an essential part of marketing in the industry today. Having a social media presence is not enough: you need to be out on the road doing interviews and book signings.
When Robyn Flemming co-started WiPS with Polly Yu in the early 1990s, she never imagined that 30 years later she would be sharing the journey of her recently published memoir with its members in a virtual meeting from halfway across the world. On 6 June 2022, on a rainy Hong Kong evening, that’s exactly what she did, zooming in from an equally wet London where she was promoting her book, Skinful: A memoir of addiction (www.robynflemmingauthor.com).
Interviewed by WiPS committee member Rinkoo Ramchandani, Robyn touched on a wide variety of topics, including the publishing process and distribution, the vulnerability expected of a memoirist and the impact on relationships, her difficult childhood, her life as a perpetual traveller, and of course an addiction that haunted her for the better part of four decades.
Robyn openly shared her journey of drafts and rejections before she eventually found beta readers willing to give her valuable insights on how to transform the project into a marketable book. She considered self-publishing before the almost-seven-year labour of love finally resulted in contracts in Australia and the UK. Skinful is now available globally online.
Asked for her advice on the writing process, Robyn wisely suggested breaking a project down into manageable steps, seeking support along the way and being patient. Echoing the theme of the talk, It’s Never Too Late, Skinful was published as Robyn turned 69 and began planning her return to the nomadic life that had been paused only by Covid.
As the talk began to wind down, and a lucky draw was held for a copy of the book, Rinkoo asked Robyn a final question: as she approaches 70, what is it still not too late for? Her response will be no surprise to those who have read Skinful: “Romance!”
Allow me to begin on a high. The kind of high one feels when permitted to walk on a Hong Kong beach once again without fencing preventing your feet from touching sand. The kind of high one revels in when life resumes to near normalcy after claustrophobic pandemic times. And to get you more excited, please read on… “Yes, there are other highs to come!”
NEW MEMBERS Since March, we have had 10 new members join WiPS: Gargi Banerjee, Julia Besnard, Irenee Chan, Liz Hobbs, Sarah Kwong, Jane Lo, Andy Lowe, Marria Qibtia Sikanda Nagra, Kate Wyllie and Neerja Yadav. It’s wonderful to have each one of you join us! To learn more about these talented ladies, please find their profiles in our online Members’ Directory [https://www.hkwips.com/members-directory/].
BOOK CLUB By Gillian Kew It’s been some years since WiPS ran a book club, so we decided to put our toes back in the water and give it another go; after all, we are about anything publishing-related! This book club had to be different, though, as we could no longer meet in person. It had to be by Zoom.
Our chosen book was Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney, a novel whose story centres around the mundane, intertwined lives of four millennials, focusing on their relationships, sex lives and the problems they face as they tried to find their “Beautiful World”.
The discussions were animated and lively as we all expressed our varied opinions, analysed the content and agreed on the general conclusion that it was more miss than hit for us, with too much focus on millennial angst. That said, we were all glad to have tried something different and we had thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and exchange of ideas.
WRITING WORKSHOPS By Shikha Bansal What happens when like-minded women get together on Zoom and discuss the craft of writing? The vibe is electric, enthusiastic and warm, and two hours fly by in the blink of an eye.
The WiPS Writing Workshop kicked off on 1 April with nine members in attendance. Eight members submitted a piece of writing, fiction and non-fiction, and everyone participated wholeheartedly, giving and receiving writing advice in equal measure, showing compassion and an understanding that pulling out words from thin air and attempting to turn them into art is challenging, although rewarding.
Led expertly by Rinkoo Ramchandani, the workshop produced a sense of shared community that will hopefully encourage the participants to grow and fulfil their potential as writers and one day find opportunities to showcase their work in larger arenas.
In 2010, aged in her late fifties, Robyn sold her house in Australia and set off with her laptop on what would become a 10-year global odyssey as a freelance editor. But Robyn was also trying to manage a 40-year drinking habit. Robyn will share how Skinful, a planned funny travel memoir, became a brave and heartfelt account of personal change. She will also speak about finding her publisher and the special challenges that writing a memoir presents.
IMPRINT 21 We have had an impressive collection of submissions sent in for Imprint21. The official deadline is now past, but if anyone has work she would still like to submit, please contact Carol (firstname.lastname@example.org) soon.
PAYMENT OPTIONS We have just added a new feature, PayMe for Business, to our payment options for annual subscriptions, events and copies of Imprint.
On behalf of your WiPS committee, I send you our very best wishes and look forward to many wonderful times ahead.
Now that Imprint20 is finally in orbit, we have, as advertised on various social media platforms, started to offer tasters from among members’ work. We suggest that you consider sharing these on your own social media pages so that we can reach a broader readership.
We took good note of your voices at the launch and are excited to tell you that we will resume the WRITING WORKSHOP around the end of March / early April. It will be led by Rinkoo Ramchandani, one of our two new committee members. The first will be a member-only get-together dedicated to Imprint21 submissions.
Later in April – to give you time to read the title – we will start a new BOOK CLUB. Gillian Kew, who is our other new committee member, will lead this.
Both the workshop and the book club will be held monthly on Zoom. They are free to members and available to non-members at a charge of HKD80 per session.
So that we can better plan for these events, please kindly email us at email@example.com by March 23 if you or your friends are interested in joining either. We will then liaise with you directly to finalize details. Please email whatever your time zone as we may be able to include some overseas members or organize satellite groups for those in the US or Europe.
We greatly look forward to hearing from you.
Finally, please remember the deadline for Imprint21 submissions is 30 April!
IMPRINT 20 WAS OFFICIALLY UNVEILED ON 26 FEBRUARY. As we couldn’t celebrate at the FCC, we launched the issue by Zoom.
Masterminded by new committee member Rinkoo Ramchandani and emceed by our president Suzanne Andrews, the occasion was declared an amazing success and enjoyed by members around the globe. Necessity being the mother of invention, WiPS had produced – in short order – its own mix of virtual wizardry!
“What a soul-lifting, inspiring and FUN launch that was! So honoured to be among such a vibrant, lively and talented group of creative women. Suzanne and team. It was a blast!” — Maureen Tai
For those of you whom distance or other engagements made attendance impossible, here is a small taste of what we enjoyed. These will take you to Susan Lavender’s rehearsal of her readings from four members’ prose pieces:
We also include a link to introduce our artist member Pamela Williams (https://www.pamwilliams.co.uk) who gave us not only the stunning illustration for the cover of Imprint 20 but also invaluable help in graphic design. As Pam lives in London, few members will have met her.
We hope this footage will help kindle your own creativity and urge you to be part of issue 21!
The deadline for the submissions is 30 April 2022. If you haven’t begun work on yours, please start now! This is your anthology and we welcome everyone’s contribution. Visit our website for guidelines.
We will hold an Imprint workshop in late March / early April for anyone needing help with her piece. More about this to follow.